Even for those who live in an $800,000 house in Prince William County, the local restaurant is probably an Applebee's or TGI Friday's, and the nearest big store is likely to be a Wal-Mart.
Money seems to have arrived in Prince William. A recent government survey estimated the county's median household income at nearly $83,000, third in the nation, and the median home price is $300,000.
But the upscale retail that usually follows such wealth is scarce. There are no galleria-type malls planned anytime soon for Prince William, according to developers, county officials and consultants.
Even a town center -- an outdoor shopping center tenanted by mall-type shops -- is five to seven years away, said John Asadoorian, president of Asadoorian Retail Solutions in Washington, a regional brokerage.
There are several reasons. For one, there are already two big malls just up the road in Tysons Corner. And there can be a lag between expensive houses and upscale retail.
"Retail follows the rooftops," said developer John D. Rhoad Jr. "In the last five years, we've seen a significant increase in people buying upscale housing here, but there's been a dearth of shopping opportunities. Retailers are just now realizing the promise of the place."
Rhoad is one of those following the rooftops. He is developing a shopping center in Gainesville. One of the occupants will be a Harris Teeter supermarket.
Brokers noted that luxury retailers don't yet seem interested.
"Some luxury retailers haven't even figured out if they want to be in Washington, let alone Prince William," Asadoorian said.
"Prince William has been considered a poor stepchild," said Supervisor Corey A. Stewart (R-Occoquan). "But it's becoming a more sophisticated place, and a more livable one.
"The county, though, needs to change," Stewart said. "Wealthier people demand different things. They want more open space, more green -- nice housing developments instead of the cookie-cutter subdivisions we have traditionally gotten."
Things are gradually changing. Harris Teeter's 52,000-square-foot store is part of a development in Gainesville called Madison Crescent, which will include an office building, condos, houses, shops and a park. The store is scheduled to open in winter 2006.
Harris Teeter runs 138 stores in six Southeastern states, most in its home state of North Carolina. There are six in Northern Virginia; one opens roughly every year. The stores sell imported cheese, sushi, cigars and wine.
By early 2007, Don Beyer Jr., a former lieutenant governor of Virginia, wants to open a Land Rover and Jaguar dealership in Gainesville. It would be the county's first luxury car dealership.
Beyer doesn't have final approval from either car company to open a dealership. But he said he has a letter of intent from Land Rover saying it plans to open a dealership with him in the county and a letter from Jaguar saying that if it decides to put a dealership in Prince William, he'll have first crack.
It has taken Beyer more than two years to negotiate approval of his building plans. He wants to open the car dealership on Route 29, just west of Manassas National Battlefield Park. County planners feared it would be an eyesore. But they were overruled by the Prince William County Planning Commission and county supervisors, who wanted the cachet of a luxury car dealership.
"Every time I go there, I'm astonished by the number of new houses," Beyer said. "My Realtor friends say be careful that your market isn't all house-poor people who can't afford to buy your cars. But I expect us to be profitable in the first year."
Both Land Rover and Harris Teeter declined to discuss whether they think Prince William has enough wealth to support strong sales of luxury products. The top-of-the-line Range Rover goes for $74,000 and the more bread-and-butter LR3 sells for $45,000.
Detroit's Urban Science, which advises car companies on where to put dealerships, said that car companies look at one major statistic: How many of their cars and their competitors' are registered with the local government. For instance, a good market for a new BMW dealership would be one in which a sufficient number of BMWs are registered to show people can afford them, but not so many that the market is saturated.